UAMS experts teach high school students about medical technology and how the heart works


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Erica Malone, Ph.D., shows students preserved hearts from a pig, a cow, and a sheep.

The 39 sophomores who participated were members of the American Heart Association’s Sweetheart Program, which for 15 years has been educating high school girls in central Arkansas about heart disease while empowering them to be heart health advocates and empowering them. initiating medical research.

The UAMS ArkanSONO program taught Sweethearts about point-of-care ultrasound and other imaging technologies. A technology-based outreach program, the UAMS ArkanSONO program received a $1.27 million Science Education Partnership (SEPA) grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) in 2018 to help efforts to stimulate student interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and careers.

Kevin D. Phelan, Ph.D., professor of anatomy at UAMS and director of the ArkanSONO program, and Erica Malone, Ph.D., who recently joined UAMS as an assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology and of Developmental Sciences, have set three virtual demonstrations to educate Sweethearts about ultrasound, heart anatomy, and technological advancements that provide a three-dimensional look inside the bodies of people who have had heart procedures (e.g., pacemaker implants or coronary artery bypass graft).

Using the SECTRA education portal, Phelan shows students a CT scan of a person who had an enlarged heart.

Using the SECTRA education portal, Phelan shows students a CT scan of a person who had an enlarged heart.

Phelan used the SECTRA Education Portal, an interactive subscription-based learning and teaching platform that uses advanced visualization tools and a library of real anatomy and clinical cases, to take students on a 3D tour of inside the body of a 90-year-old woman who had been donated to science. The students saw that her heart had enlarged significantly over time due to high blood pressure. They saw where a pacemaker had been implanted to deliver electrical impulses. In another case on the portal, students saw where surgeons bypassed blocked arteries to maintain blood flow to and from the heart.

At the ultrasound station, Phelan performed a live ultrasound on a standardized patient while the students watched the ultrasound. At a third station, Malone showed the students three real preserved hearts – from a pig, a cow and a sheep. She removed layers, allowing students to see the internal structures of the heart.

photo of an ultrasound on a normal heart

Kevin Phelan, Ph.D., demonstrates an ultrasound on a normal heart of a standardized patient.

“I was able to watch as Dr. Phelan gave his presentations, and the students seemed very interested and engaged,” Malone said. “When he asked what they had learned at the end of the session, they had great responses. They remembered things like the reason for using the gel for the ultrasound and the rule of thirds for visualizing the heart on an x-ray. It was very impressive for us.

Tammy Quick, program co-chair Sweetheart who coordinated the hour-long virtual program, said the students, as well as some of their mothers who watched alongside them from home, “found it very interesting.”

“Historically, this is an in-person event at UAMS,” Quick said. “We were so grateful that UAMS was willing and able to beautifully execute this virtual learning experience for the 2022 and 2021 Sweethearts. It exposed them to the field of medical research, which they knew nothing about. Additionally, we know that exposure to the medical or health field can inspire a young mind to enter a profession focused on healing, it also helps them understand the mission of the American Heart Association and encourages them to support that mission.

The NIH-sponsored ArkanSONO program has previously held in-person STEM outreach sessions to ninth-grade students in the Little Rock School District and hosted 60 students at a time for a week-long summer day camp. on the UAMS campus. Although camp has been canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions for the past two years, Phelan said he is currently accepting applications for camp this summer.

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